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Welcome Back, All You Kotters: As the School Year Begins, Keep An Eye on Our 'Teacher'

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A former stripper who lectures on human sexuality. An archeologist who examines a city’s garbage for clues to its citizens’ habits. The principal of a British school for nannies who thinks Mary Poppins is a twit.

These and more than 60 other stories have already appeared in PEOPLE’S now familiar Teacher section. As hundreds of thousands of young Americans troop back to the classroom, this seems like a good time to examine our interest in education all over the world. We’ve discovered and reported on people with new ideas and fresh approaches from nursery school to graduate school. We’ve dug into every possible academic field—languages, astronomy, African studies, law, sports, marine biology, ecology, anthropology, psychology and meteorology. Back in October 1975, with the help of students, administrators and faculty members, PEOPLE called attention to the work of a dozen outstanding U.S. professors in a major article that continues to have repercussions—a constant flow of nominations for another such tribute.

At the same time, our reporters and editors are always on the prowl for the offbeat educator, such as Dr. John Hall of the University of Miami, who taught the art of underwater treasure hunting. Leonard Wolf introduced a course on monsters at San Francisco State (his particular hero was Dracula). Roger Fouts worked with some unusual students in his sign language class at the University of Oklahoma. They’re chimpanzees. A former nun has developed a college credit program for inmates at the same Utah prison where Gary Gilmore was executed.

However, PEOPLE’S relationship with teachers and students goes beyond the stories we do. This fall our program on the college radio network, Hi, People!, is back on the air weekdays. It consists of quick, informative highlights from that week’s issue. Because of PEOPLE’S innovative impact on contemporary journalism, we are asked by students for information about ourselves all the time. When a journalism class at St. Bonaventure University in western New York State made a special project of this magazine, the students interviewed Managing Editor Richard B. Stolley on a lengthy telephone conference call.

I was particularly pleased when the parents of a student at Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts sent us a copy of a letter from their son’s teacher, John C. Dewey Ill. He was using PEOPLE as a vocabulary workbook because, Mr. Dewey said, its text is “amazingly varied, scholarly and unpretentious.”

The number of yearbook editors who have borrowed the magazine’s layout and design is yet another kind of recognition. More and more, it happens every spring. In fact, last summer PEOPLE Art Director Robert Essman was asked to talk about our design at a seminar given by one of the country’s largest yearbook publishers in Winston-Salem, N.C.

In June Managing Editor Stolley delivered the commencement address at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. While his subject was the surge in popularity of “personality journalism,” two sentences from his speech seem to get to the heart of why PEOPLE has established such warm rapport with both educators and students:

“Amid the multiple demands on our time, we must set priorities. Reading has to compete with everything else that demands our attention, and Americans—particularly young Americans—have got their lives under the kind of control that requires journalism to reach them quickly and say its piece fast.”